10 November 2009

An Outline that's Working

Friends and family know that I am usually very organized and prepared.

Take my purse for example ... 3 sets of earphones and a splitter for the kids, iPhone charger, band aids, antibacterial medicine, hand sanitizer, moisturizer, nail trimming kit, son's asthma inhaler, hair bands and clips, notebook, 2 pens and a pencil, sunglasses, wallet, keys, a folding brush/mirror combo, Leatherman with scissors and a wine opener ... and this list goes on.

My iPhone holds all my digital data, or least as much as I can cram on there ... contacts, calendar (with 5 different personal calendars), games, movies, music, books (yes, I read on my iPhone), podcasts, productivity apps, etc... this list too goes on.

Anways, I mention this because you'd think that I'd be a plotter, you know one of those that writes everything down in outline, prepared and structured.

Which is what I did last year when I started NaNoWriMo. The first few scenes followed the outline to a T. But then as I continued writing, I deviated from the outline to the point that my novel was completely different from my outline within only a few thousand words.

Imagine my disbelief that I couldn't follow a simple outline. Me, of all people! I had resigned myself to being a panster, writing by the seat of my pants. But maybe this creative thing called writing was much more fluid than I had anticipated and shouldn't be held down to an outline. While it may work for others, and it sorta worked last year, it just didn't feel right to consider myself a pantster.

I should've known: one data point does not make a trend.

Getting ready for this year's NaNoWriMo endeavor, I wrote another outline using the tools and tips from the writing course, HTTS. Using digital notecards, I outlined nearly every scene in the story with POV, setting, conflict, and twist.

I was sure all that pre-work would be for naught. After all, hadn't I already proven that I couldn't follow an outline?

I began my novel and was pleasantly surprised at how easily the words appeared on the screen. Before starting each scene, I'd review what I'd written for it and know exactly where to start. And most of the time, the resulting scene would match what I had planned.

Now, at 43% to my 50,000 words by the end of the month goal, I'm still on course with my outline. I've had to make a few minor teaks as I hadn't thought everything through before hand, and there has been lots of room for creativity within this outline. But, what I find a relief is that it's working.

A great thing for someone like me who likes structure. While this is just one more data point, so not a trend, I can confidently say this this feels right to me. I guess I'll know for sure with a few more novels, when I can hopefully see the trend. (But if you ask me, I'll just tell you I'm a plotter.)

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